In the Pink

I used to hate the color pink. I think it stemmed from when I was younger, my mother only ever buying me pink clothes for my birthday and Christmas. Perhaps it was her attempt to cure me of my tom-boyish ways. I tended towards the darker colors of emerald green, pitch black and deep indigos for my clothing choices. No girly-pink for me. Argh,it pained my eyes! Pink is for the weak, I used to think!

Although my aversion to pink has faded and my wardrobe now contains a few pieces, I still get cringy when looking at the pink breast cancer ribbon. With charities like Susan G. Komen having mediocre ratings and hearing complaints about the American Cancer Society from within my support groups, I was reluctant to join in on any sort of fundraising bandwagons.

My wonderful, kind, sister-in-law Caroline works with breast cancer patients on a regular basis and has participated in many fund raisers. When she saw that the ACS was having a fund raiser walk for breast cancer, she had no hesitation in signing up with a team in my honor. It was perfect that it timed out to coincide with the completion of my radiation treatments. I was humbled that she would do this for me, so I swept my aversions aside and decided to go for it. And then recently, another sister-in-law, Karla, created an additional team to walk on my behalf. I was even more humbled.

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What a glorious Saturday for a cancer walk along the shores of Lake Michigan. The winds were calm, the sky was clear, and it was around 80° for the first time this year. For most of us, it was too hot out after a cool spring, especially for a 3-mile walk.

Unfortunately, my sister, niece and I had parked a mile away from the event, after following the advice of my brother. It turns out they moved the registration location from last year, and so we had to hoof it. Being hot all the time is a side effect of my anti-cancer medication, so I was overheating already by the time we arrived at the walk location. I had dressed in layers expecting a cool lake front, and those layers were all off by the time we got to the registration.

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There was a huge stage set up and annoyingly loud pop music blared in-between the distorted announcements. Several vendor tents were arranged in a half-circle and we bought a few tees and got some freebies from some of the advertisers. There was a “survivor tent” that I went through and I got a bag of goodies consisting of water, granola bar, notebook, toothbrush, hand sanitizer, suckers, stickers, survivor shirt and of all things, a rape whistle. I also got a plastic beauty-pageant-type sash that said “survivor” on it. I awkwardly put it on after some prodding by my sister.

The survivors gathered in front of the stage for photos and the local television crew to record. I was on the outside perimeter, so I didn’t make the news since they kept the cameras focused on the highest density of people. In a way, I felt a bit used. I felt paraded about by ACS using my misfortune to raise money. “Here’s a goodie bag, smile for the camera.” I know these organizations really do help people, but my cynical mind couldn’t help but feel a bit had.

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But as we walked 7,000 strong, I couldn’t help but look at the faces of all of those affected by breast cancer. Young and old, all races represented and both rich and poor, cancer doesn’t care who you are. My heart went out to those determined to walk with the aid of a walker or needing a wheelchair. There were many without hair, lost from the effects of chemo. Some of these women have fought bitterly and hard against this disease. Each survivor marching, strong in their own way. I was starting to feel a bit proud to be in their midst. Cancer has taken a heavy toll on many, and they have the heart of warriors.

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My group had 15 of us, and I want to thank each one of them for walking with me, especially my friend Holly who I failed to connect with, lost within the mass of people. It was a 3-mile walk and my team walked in the midst of the pack. There were water stops every mile, and we needed them due to the unfamiliar heat. I was really amazed by the spirit and positive attitude of many of the people there. There was an upbeat, joyous atmosphere. Garish costumes and team shirts were every where, and the playful banter and companionship really made it a happy, positive walk for me, by the time we reached the finish line.

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I plan to do many more of these walks, not only for breast cancer but for other causes as well. We all will eventually have some disease that will affect our lives in some way, and every one of these causes matter .

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For me, this color pink that I once detested, now represents strength and hope, and I wear it proudly. I am the one in eight, with a long walk ahead. Walk with me, and I’ll walk with you.

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